City worker charged in River Road fire

London fire truck. (File photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News.)

Just over a week after fire caused about $1-million in damage to the River Road Golf Course clubhouse, a London man is accused of deliberately setting the blaze.

London police announced Monday that they have made and arrest and filed a charged in connection with the November 7 fire.

Michael Peter Belanger, 54, of London is charged with one count of arson causing damage to property. He is to appear in court in February.

A spokesperson at London city hall has confirmed that Belanger is an employee of the City of London. He has been suspended with pay, pending further investigation.

“We take these allegations very seriously. We hold all employees to a high level of accountability in their service to this community,” City Manager Lynne Livingstone said in a statement released Monday afternoon. “We will cooperate fully in this process. We have been shocked and deeply concerned by the fire at River Road. It is an act of violence that has put some of London’s most vulnerable people at greater risk by compromising the temporary Indigenous-led winter shelter proposed for this site. Our focus now will be to continue to work with our community partners to identify an option to ensure we can provide an Indigenous-led temporary shelter site for the winter.”

River Road Golf Course is one of the sites that had been proposed as part of the City of London’s winter homelessness response. But the blaze has made those plans far from certain. Atlohsa Family Healing Services was to operate the winter shelters at River Road. In a statement released last week, Atlohsa Executive Director Raymond Deleary said the fire was “unlikely a coincidence,” given that it happened so soon after the announcement that it would be used to offer services to the homeless.

He added Atlohsa is working with the City of London to find a “secure a safe location for the program.”